I have said before that lack of organization is what has cost me the most in the markets.
Lack of organization results in:
- Missed opportunities
- Risk management mistakes
- Giving back too much profit
But worse than that, it damages your trading psyche and makes it much harder to achieve your trading goals. This is an age-old recipe for heartache.
Dramatic *much* you might ask?
Not really. Mistakes kill trading systems. Trading systems that don’t work don’t achieve goals. And traders that don’t achieve their goals can feel a lot of pain.
Some even give up.
The good news is, of course, that being organized is totally within your control. It does not require any special ability at picking the market. It just requires, well, being organized.
So from someone who manages several trading strategies across two trading businesses, here are my top tips for being an organized trader.
- Plan on the weekend. Before you head into the new week, you should know exactly how many trades you are looking to place, where the opportunities lie to find those trades, and how you are going to structure the trades if your entry conditions arise.
Everything you do should fit into a pre-planned framework. Of course conditions may arise that you had not foreseen – but your planning should account for how you will treat those.
- Structure your trading around time intervals. Scan for opportunities and manage your trades at set intervals of time. At the start of the month, week or day review the respective charts for long-term positions. At the start of the Asian, European and US sessions, review your shorter-term charts.
By doing this, you both save time and make sure you are not missing opportunities that arise.
- Make judicious use of bookmarks. In line with the above philosophy, organize the information you need to view at each of the intervals into bookmark folders.
For example if you read a certain report that comes out in the morning, add it to your “Morning” folder. If there’s a website you use to get ideas in the evening, add it to that folder.
You can then open everything in the folder at once and blast through in record time. Once everything is organized, you’ll be truly surprised at how much work you can get done in a short space of time.
Another option for this is to use an RSS reader, like how I used Feedly to become an expert “big picture” investor in three months.
- Build a risk management spreadsheet. Before I place each trade, I check my spreadsheet in order to determine how much I should be risking, according to my trading plan. Sounds simple, but position-sizing errors are too common to leave this out of the list.
- Use trade management software. The trade management software I use is FX Synergy. The reasons I find FX Synergy essential are:
- It will automatically calculate my position size based on the amount I’m risking, thereby eliminating position-sizing errors.
- I am able to connect it to all my accounts with different brokers, so I can manage my trading from one interface.
- I can – and this is very important – view my risk in a number of different ways. This could be my total exposure in a currency pair, across my accounts, in an individual strategy in pips, and many more ways. I particular I like how I can view my current risk on a positon once I have scaled in or out, and/or trailed the stop-loss. Risk is far from a static thing, and needs to be managed dynamically.
- It will alert me to upcoming news events.
- I can set up multiple profit targets to scale out of my positions, or partially close an existing position.
Needless to say it is particularly difficult to stay organized without a centralized control point.
- Use a flexible charting package. MT4, while flexible, does not cut the mustard as a charting platform. Instead you need a platform that:
- Provides access to a lot more markets
- Lets you set up different watch lists
- Allows you to easily add or remove indicators
- Records your trade ideas for easy review
These may seem like small things, but they make a huge practical difference.
I have put together a quick video on how I do this in Trading View, the charting software I use.
- Have a separate trading plan for each strategy. Do you get confused about when to exit and enter? I know I felt conflicted about this for a long time. I also know I am supposed to cut my losses short, let my winners run, and not give back any of my profit. So what to do?
The answer for me was to separate out my trading approaches into individual plans, designed to achieve specific objectives. Instead of trying to achieve everything all in one plan, I now run multiple strategies that have very clear rules on when to enter and exit.
This way I can always trade what I see in front of me, and capture opportunities whether they are long-term, short-term or swing-trade.
The ability to differentiate between these has had a significant impact on my bottom line. It’s much easier to take profit on short-term trades and let long-term trades run when you know which are which.
A minute spent organizing is an hour saved in the future
Trading is a highly competitive environment.
One in which the disorganized trader is likely to struggle.
So invest some time and energy now in building the structures you need to support your trading.
Trust me. It will make a bigger difference than you think.
About the Author
Sam Eder is a currency trader and stock investor, and is the author of the Definitive Guide to Developing a Winning Forex Trading System and the Advanced Forex Course for Smart Traders. He is part-owner of Forex Signal Provider FX Renew and the founder of the stock recommendation service SpoonFed Investor . If you like Sam’s writing you can subscribe to his Forex newsletter or stock newsletter for free.